The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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IT formula in party lab

New Delhi, Oct. 25: The CPM is trying to work out a formula that will narrow divisions within the party on strikes in the information technology industry and tread the middle path.

Caught in a tussle between the strike-free advocates led by Bengal chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee and the hardliners backed by Citu, the politburo today discussed the issue for four hours.

At the end of the first round of the two-day meeting, CPM leaders said a decision would be taken tomorrow.

“A debate is going on. The discussion is not yet over. We want to clarify all issues before coming to a decision,” party general secretary Prakash Karat said.

On whether the party was split on the issue, Citu president M.K. Pandhe, a vocal proponent of the right to strike, said: “In the end, there will be no divide.”

The leadership is now toying with a suggestion to treat infotech like industries in the core sector during strikes.

In steel, for instance, workers do go on strike but crucial activities like maintaining the temperature in the blast furnace are not disrupted.

Some CPM leaders said a similar formula could be put in place for the IT sector where services that are essential can run even during a strike.

During the September 29 shutdown, Citu did not spare the infotech hub in Calcutta, forcing Bhattacharjee to call for a debate in the politburo.

However, Pandhe, who does not agree that infotech is part of the core sector, will have to be brought round before a decision is taken.

Pandhe’s reply to a question whether the party was supporting him suggested that he is not sure which way the leadership will tilt. All he said was: “Let us see.”

The majority opinion in the politburo seems to be in favour of a moderate trade union policy in the infotech industry. But the leadership is not sure how to go about it without antagonising Citu, whose base of 34 lakh members cannot be ignored.

CPM leaders pointed out that the debate is not about whether the sector should have unions or not but about strikes.

“Labour laws must be upheld in the IT sector. We are against any dilution of labour laws,” a party leader said.

This would mean not shutting out trade unions but limiting the reach of strikes, if a blanket ban is not possible.

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